Okeechobee Music Festival 2016: The Good, the Bad, and the Weird

Okeechobee Fest 2016: Till next year, Sunshine Grove!EXPAND
Okeechobee Fest 2016: Till next year, Sunshine Grove!
Photo by Alex Markow

Okeechobee Festival just wrapped up the 2016 edition of what will hopefully become an annual tradition. It was three solid days of live music and ideal weather in a beautiful setting few people in the world experience. But like all rookies, no matter what the event, athletic or musical, there's always some room for improvement.

Here's a noncomprehensive list of what we loved about Okeechobee Music Festival, what we could have done without, and what was just weird. 

Big Grams were one of Sunday night's highly anticipated headliners.EXPAND
Big Grams were one of Sunday night's highly anticipated headliners.
Photo by Alex Markow

The Diversity of Music
What we loved: There was literally something for everybody. Classic rock fans had Robert Plant, Hall & Oates, and Booker T. Jones. Hip-hop heads had Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller, and Future. EDM aficionados could dance to Bassnectar or Skrillex. Indie-rockers had Portugal. The Man and Swimm. Even jazz and country were represented. Then it was all mixed together in a bouillabaisse with Saturday night's PoWow jam with John Oates, Win Butler (the singer of Arcade Fire), and Miguel joining forces.

What we didn't like: Maybe there was too much music. We're not talking about how two bands you wanted to see were playing at the same time. Them's the breaks. But three may have been one too many stages in the Grove area. If you were standing on the left side of the Be stage, you couldn't help but to also hear the music emanating from the Here stage. Either make sure no two stages are playing music at the same time, move the stages farther apart, or cut one of the stages out of the mix.

Okeechobee Music Festival 2016: The Good, the Bad, and the Weird (3)EXPAND
Photos by Alex Markow

Location
What we loved: Not only was the weather extremely cooperative with the sun coming out every day (but not too oppressively, with temperatures at night dropping to the 50s) but the landscape was a reminder of how beautiful Florida can be. When you first walked through the trees into the Grove where the main stages were, you could trick yourself into thinking you were stepping into Eden. There was also a beach area by a small lake where spring breakers could slip 'n' slide into the brown waters cordoned off from any alligators.

What we didn't like: Unless you planned way ahead reserving the few nearby hotel rooms, the isolated locale meant you were camping. With so many campers, that meant your tent was almost touching your neighbor's. With the success of this year's festival selling out, odds are next year's edition will have more tickets available, resulting in even tighter quarters. Also not great was once your car left the campground, there was no coming back — so no stocking up on supplies in town if you forgot something.

What was weird: As we overheard one snarky passerby say, "Who knew so many hippies showered?" The lines for the makeshift showers were insanely long for people spending a weekend sleeping under the stars. Good thing it wasn't humid or people would still be waiting in the line.

Okeechobee Music Festival 2016: The Good, the Bad, and the Weird (6)EXPAND
Photo by Alex Markow

The People
What we loved: The festivalgoers and staff were supernice and friendly. If you sneezed, a stranger was sure to say "Bless you." On the first day, though there were reportedly 36 arrests, we weren't witness to any fights that tend to unfold when this level of alcohol is consumed. There was also a great selection of food vendors, from Vietnamese noodles to vegan corndogs to popsicles.  

What we didn't like: The fact there were no single-day tickets. What is profitable for organizers means only a certain class of people can attend. For someone wishing to hear Robert Plant sing "Going to California," $300 is a steep price to pay. This meant much of the crowd wasn't made up of Floridians but rather of fraternity brothers from up north making this a spring-break destination.

What was weird: Take your pick. This was people-watching paradise. You could sit under a random tree and ogle scantily clad bodies, marvel at the presence of people dressed as leprechauns, and eavesdrop on the most insane dialogue you have ever heard.

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Sunshine Grove

12517 NE 91st Ave.
Okeechobee, FL 34972

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